Brain imaging can predict how intelligent you are, study finds
New research suggests as much as 10 percent of individual variances in human intelligence can be predicted based on the strength of neural connections between the left prefrontal cortex and other regions of the brain. WUSTL IMAGE / MICHAEL COLE
(Medical Xpress) -- When it comes to intelligence, what factors distinguish the brains of exceptionally smart humans from those of average humans?
As science has long suspected, overall brain size matters somewhat, accounting for about 6.7 percent of individual variation in intelligence. More recent research has pinpointed the brains prefrontal cortex, a region just behind the forehead, as a critical hub for high-level mental processing, with activity levels there predicting another 5 percent of variation in individual intelligence.
Now, new research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that another 10 percent of individual differences in intelligence can be explained by the strength of neural pathways connecting the left prefrontal cortex to the rest of the brain.
Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the findings establish global brain connectivity as a new approach for understanding human intelligence.
Our research shows that connectivity with a particular part of the prefrontal cortex can predict how intelligent someone is, suggests lead author Michael W. Cole, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in cognitive neuroscience at Washington University. The study is the first to provide compelling evidence that neural connections between the left prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain make a unique and powerful contribution to the cognitive processing underlying human intelligence, says Cole, whose research focuses on discovering the cognitive and neural mechanisms that make human behavior uniquely flexible and intelligent.
This study suggests that part of what it means to be intelligent is having a prefrontal cortex that does its job well; and part of what that means is that it can effectively communicate with the rest of the brain, says study co-author Todd Braver, PhD, professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and of neuroscience and radiology in the School of Medicine. Braver is a co-director of the Cognitive Control and Psychopathology Lab at Washington University, in which the research was conducted.
One possible explanation of the findings, the research team suggests, is that the prefrontal region is a flexible hub that uses its extensive brain-wide connectivity to monitor and influence other brain regions in a goal-directed manner.
There is evidence that the left prefrontal cortex is the brain region that remembers (maintains) the goals and instructions that help you keep doing what is needed when youre working on a task, Cole says. So it makes sense that having this region communicating effectively with other regions (the perceivers and doers of the brain) would help you to accomplish tasks intelligently.
While other regions of the brain make their own special contribution to cognitive processing, it is the left prefrontal cortex that helps coordinate these processes and maintain focus on the task at hand, in much the same way that the conductor of a symphony monitors and tweaks the real-time performance of an orchestra.
Were suggesting that the left prefrontal cortex functions like a feedback control system that is used often in engineering, that it helps implement cognitive control (which supports fluid intelligence), and that it doesnt do this alone, Cole says.
The findings are based on an analysis of functional magnetic resonance brain images captured as study participants rested passively and also when they were engaged in a series of mentally challenging tasks associated with fluid intelligence, such as indicating whether a currently displayed image was the same as one displayed three images ago.
Previous findings relating left prefrontal cortex activity to challenging task performance were supported. Connectivity was then assessed while participants rested, and their performance on additional tests of fluid intelligence and cognitive control collected outside the brain scanner was associated with the estimated connectivity.
Results indicate that levels of global brain connectivity with a part of left lateral prefrontal cortex serve as a strong predictor of both fluid intelligence and cognitive control abilities.
Although much remains to be learned about how these neural connections contribute to fluid intelligence, new models of brain function suggested by this research could have important implications for the future understanding and perhaps augmentation of human intelligence.
The findings also may offer new avenues for understanding how breakdowns in global brain connectivity contribute to the profound cognitive control deficits seen in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, Cole suggests.
More information: Paper online: www.jneurosci.org/… 988.abstract
Journal reference: Journal of Neuroscience
- Researchers use brain-injury data to map intelligence in the brain Apr 10, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Researchers gain new insight into prefrontal cortex activity Mar 05, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Filters that reduce 'brain clutter' identified Apr 14, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Shedding light on memory deficits in schizophrenic patients and healthy aged subjects Feb 23, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Brain is not fully mature until 30s and 40s Dec 22, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
10 hours ago Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
Neuroscience 3 hours ago | 4.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
You're standing near an airport luggage carousel and your bag emerges on the conveyor belt, prompting you to spring into action. How does your brain make the shift from passively waiting to taking action when ...
Neuroscience 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
Neuroscience 5 hours ago | 4 / 5 (4) | 0 |
In a remote fishing community in Venezuela, a lone fisherman sits on a cliff overlooking the southern Caribbean Sea. This man –– the lookout –– is responsible for directing his comrades on the water, ...
Neuroscience 7 hours ago | 4 / 5 (1) | 0 |
A drug commonly used to treat depression and anxiety may improve a stress-related heart condition in people with stable coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.
30 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(HealthDay)—The overall health of Americans isn't improving much, with about six in 10 people either overweight or obese and large numbers engaging in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, heavy drinking or ...
40 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—In 2008 to 2010, the prevalence of key health behaviors among U.S. adults varied, with about one in five adults current smokers and 62.1 percent overweight or obese, according to a report presented ...
30 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—Factors such as increased case finding may explain why Michigan had half of the total spinal infections associated with contaminated methylprednisolone acetate in the recent fungal meningitis ...
20 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Early use of tracheostomy for mechanically ventilated patients not associated with improved survival
For critically ill patients receiving mechanical ventilation, early tracheostomy (within the first 4 days after admission) was not associated with an improvement in the risk of death within 30 days compared to patients who ...
30 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—Three-quarters of public schools in the metro Atlanta area contain microbes, including bacteria indicating the presence of fecal matter, according to research published in the May 17 issue of ...
10 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0